This is the feeling since I came back. First, I could not believe the visible degradation in supplies in a mere ten days. Today I did my first grocery shopping with my usual non regulated price items and it was, I kid you not, at least 25% above what I paid last time. More worryingly, since I still can afford for the time being, my deli was out of all but the strict basics. That is, no salami, no biscotto ham, etc...That already meager shelf when compared to more civilized countries was simply empty.
But the bewilderment was stronger as I started catching up with the politics. Oh my, oh my....
So many things have happened that it would be too long to come back on them. We had, for example, a show of force from the real owners of the jail systems, the pranes also known as "negative leaders". These mafia-thug-narco-whatever characters come and go from jail where they reside because, well, it is safer for them to reside in there. More protection from their body guards. One, "el conejo", the rabbit, went to a party and was shot on his way back to jail. Margarita was in turmoil as the pissed off inmates displayed even war weaponry with the public order unable to do much about it. Another one in Maracay got his lieutenant shot and demanded that the northern part of Maracay observe mourning the day of the funeral. All shops and schools had to close down, the police and army unable to protect them from the wrath of his supporters.
But that is not the only place where the regime is making water. On the political front it is not doing so good either. The opposition MUD is slowly but surely putting Maduro in a legal trap that will force this one to either kick the table and make a coup, or leave office. This is actually not hard: the National Assembly has simply started to doing its job which includes a review of laws, and its controlling function of holding hearings to ask ministers how the money is spent. That alone is sending the regime in a frenzy. Ministers are courting "desacato" which means that they are refusing to attend normal hearings (in particular the son in law of Chavez who probably thinks he is royalty) and thus risk sanctions that could go as far as brief jail stints.
Vituperation against the Assembly is reaching new heights, which is not good because the backroom negotiations that we know are taking place could be irremediably damaged. But then again this is what the pro Cuban radicals and the narco corrupt sectors want. The highest shriek was this week when Maduro publicly insulted in the vilest form Lorenzo Mendoza of the Polar group who had been too polite when he sent the message that the crisis was too bad to keep going at these silly games the regime was playing. The insults included direct threats. Threats also came from Diosdado Cabello.
What can we make of this?
First, the obvious, the regime is out of arguments and thus it uses procacious and violent words to silence adversaries. Classical. But if Chavez with oil at 100 could get away with it; Maduro with empty shelves and dead babies cannot.
Clearly there is a tug of war inside the regime that explains that exasperation, that refusal for any type of negotiation, or even recognition from the "establishment" of the regime towards the MUD. From their growing loss of privileges to the progressive realization that a lot of them will have to face the consequences of years of looting and assorted misdeeds comes that growing despair and political mistakes. I know, I have already stated such many times but I think this time it is different, the ground is shifting fast inside chavismo as the crisis is leaving no respite.
This is what I think is going on.
Maduro is the voice of Cuba. They are probably already not receiving the cash they used to receive but the Venezuelan situation now makes it nearly impossible to keep sending them anything. Either we starve or they do. I doubt that the military will accept to shoot at food riots to allow Maduro to keep sending Cuba's allowance. But the army has been infiltrated by a Cuban security. How do you deal with that?
Cabello and the narcos have rallied Maduro because at this point they have no other choice. For all practical purpose the National Assembly loss per se did not undo Cabello, the magnitude of the loss did it. You do not survive such a rejection and thus he is everyone's favorite scapegoat.
But the regime has again wasted precious time, two solid months without any sensible economic measures and things got worse. In fact we are learning that they are importing expensive and useless banknotes that will push further inflation while the remaining gold reserves are been negotiated to postpone by a couple of months default. The drop of Venezuelan bonds indicate clearly that all expect default before the end of the year. In other words, it is clear for all that the regime will not change its policies. It does not want to. It cannot do it. It would not know how to do it. And it does not has the people to do it anyway. We are stuck. Regime change or massive repression are the only options.
The MUD opposition, give or take a few, is doing the only thing it can do, stay as close as possible to the law. That is enough to push the regime over the brink. It has offered to negotiate a deal but it takes two to negotiate and this apparently will not happen now. Two months after the election surely we would have seen some semi solid evidence. No? Thus the opposition keeps pushing, opening the cracks inside chavismo, hoping, against all hope?, that some sensible group emerges.
One thing is certain, any civil war that may start will not start from the opposition but within chavismo. The opposition has no weapons, the factions of the regime have. Look at what happened with the pranes armies these past couple of weeks. They can start a war if they want. And the army knows that very well.
Meanwhile the army is deciding whether it will allow Cuba to starve Venezuelans.
This all will be played rather fast, if you ask me. We are talking weeks here.
Stay bewildered. It will help.